Italy pioneered purpose-building high-altitude resorts in the 1930s and Cervinia, like Sestrière by the country’s French border, is one of Europe’s originals. The little settlement that did stand there originally was known as ‘Breuil’, but was changed to Cervinia, apparently because in those nationalistic times the former “Sounded too French”. Now the two are officially hyphenated together, although most English speakers still tend to call the place Cervinia.
The title Cervinia also brings to mind Monte Cervino, again better known as the Matterhorn to English speakers, which provides a key part of the spectacular backdrop to the resort, nestling on the border with Switzerland. Indeed the huge ski area is linked by lift to one of the most famous Swiss resorts – Zermatt, and old rivalries that meant there was for many decades no joint lift ticket, seem to have finally been forgotten in recent years with the introduction of a full international pass – no more messing about with supplements. You will still be crossing the border too, so make sure you carry a passport. Switzerland is the only major country in Western Europe not to sign up for membership of the EC (European Community) with its commitment to abolish borders between member states within Europe.
Cervinia today is, again like the other original Italian purpose-built centres, a hotch potch of architectural styles ranging from the quite acceptable to the unacceptably ugly, but at least the variety makes it impossible to condemn the whole place as you might some of the later French monstrosities. What’s special about the place is that, although it catches the sun, its altitude ensures it maintains the best snow record in Italy. Oh, and you also have access to one of the world’s longest ski runs, from the Klein Matterhorn above Zermatt down to Cervinia’s lift-linked neighbour, Valtournenche, an epic 20km (13 mile) descent.